From past to present, Nochatsa finds ways to promote folk songs
From past to present, Nochatsa finds ways to promote folk songs
  • Hong Jee-won
  • 승인 2009.06.01 11:57
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Nochatsa is under its way preparing for a concert in September where protest music from around the world would be performed on stage.


During the political upheaval in 1980s, students were the social force that has tenaciously and persistently challenged the authoritarian state. They were mainly responsible for the fall of Rhee`s doctrine regime in 1960, in the demise of Park`s 18-year dictatorship in 1979, and was influential in bringing Chun`s autocratic rule to an end in 1987.

In the center of those student social force stood an vocal activist group composed of university students in Seoul, named noraeleul chatneun saramdeul, also known as "Nochatsa" for short, and means "People Searching for Songs" in Korean. Calling them a band would not exactly be accurate since more than 150 people were involved with the group from 1984 to 1996. Composed of people who are mostly with no virtual musical backgrounds, they were mainly not to top the charts, but to topple militaristic regimes.
Nochatsa’s history goes back to 1984 when college students from various school music clubs gathered with an ambition to promote folk songs to the public. Kim Min-gi from Seoul National University, who is known to be the most popular folk rock singers in the 1980s, was in the forefront of such movement. Since then, they released four albums, many of them becoming hit songs, and were so popular to sell one million albums overall. More so, they were the first to release a legally recognized music album with a spirit of activism.
Taking the risk of being arrested, five Nochatsa members held their first ever concert on October 13, 1987. They sang a total of four songs, all of them which carried a strong message for democracy. This concert, held four months after the June Struggle, brought a sensation to the public. During the concert, the sympathized crowd sang and cried all together.
Song Suk-hwan (’85, Korean Painting), who performed on stage with Nochatsa, vividly remembers the day. “Even before the concert a long line of crowds, so long we couldn’t even see the end, were waiting outside for our performance,” said Song. “During our two hour performance, all sang together as a single voice and were sweating, singing, and crying all together.”
After their first concert, in 1988, Nochatsa began to appear on television and reached to much broader audiences. In 1989, their songs even remained in the top 10 charts for several months.
“We were not professional singers, and to gain such popularity and recognition, even for us, it came as a surprise,” said Cho Seung-tae, a Nochatsa member who joined the group in 1989.
They were first on the list during college festivals and labor union meetings, and were at their peak in 1990, when they had over 200 performances in that year.
“We didn’t even have time to practice. We couldn’t sleep nor practice nor attend school. It can be said that we had performed every single day,” said Cho. “But nobody among us complained about such hectic schedule, rather we became more passionate day after day.”
During these days, Ewha was also in the center of these student movements. Song Suk-hwan (’85, Korean Painting), and Choi Mon-jung (’88, Chemistry & Nano Sciences) were two of the Ewha alumni who were part of Nochatsa.
Song, who joined Nochatsa in 1987 and contributed in the first and second album, said her ties with Nochatsa started as a coincidence.
“I was invited to one of Nochatsa’s after party. In that party, all of us took turns and sang songs,” said Song. “The leader of Nochatsa at that time, who heard me sing, asked my friend to bring me along to Nochatsa.”
Song who has been an active member since 1987 says she has never regretted a moment in her life dedicating herself at Nochatsa. “We were and still is proud of ourselves since we were not afraid to voice our thoughts to the society,” said Song.
Choi, who joined Nochatsa in 1989, contributed in their second album and participated in the recording of the song titled “the Song of May.”
“Nochatsa was a turning point in my life. I grabbed the chance of achieving my dream as a singer and also met my husband there,” said Choi.
In 1991, Choi could no longer perform with Nochatsa because she had to take care of her family; however, her passion for singing and for Nochatsa naturally led her to join Nochatsa in 2004 again.
In the mid-1990s, political stability was achieved and many student activist groups also diminished during this time.  ochatsa was no exception; they became inactive and stopped performing until 2004.
Under the lead of Han Dong-hun, a previous Nochatsa member, eight other previous members gathered as Nochatsa in 2004 again and re-released their second and third album.
“The Nochatsa members gathered back together since we feel an obligation to pass down our music, beliefs, and traditions of Nochatsa to the next generation,” said Cho. “We have carried out several performances since 2004, including the one held at Welch-Ryang Auditorium. However, unlike the past we aren’t receiving the support we used to because the social tide has changed a lot so far.”
Cho said Nochatsa will never give up in finding ways to reach out to the public and in promoting folk songs that can make an appeal to them.
“We have tried several methods to appeal the folk songs to the public by changing the melody or by adding new instruments,” said Cho. “Nochatsa should not solely remain in the past memories, but become the present and the future of this society,” said Cho.
Nochatsa is under its way preparing for a concert in September where protest music from around the world would be performed on stage.




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